State investigating CPS over Lawhorn case

Jamarion Lawhorn is charged with murder as an adult in the death of 9-year-old Michael Connor Verkerke.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The state has opened an internal investigation into how Children’s Protective Services handled the case of Jamarion Lawhorn, the 12-year-old who confessed to stabbing a 9-year-old boy to death in a Kentwood playground.

On Thursday, Michigan Department of Human Services Director Maura Corrigan said her office is conducting an internal investigation into CPS’s handling of the Lawhorn case.

“I am saddened by the playground tragedy in Kent County,” Corrigan said in a written statement. “Nothing can be worse than the death of a child.

“Upon hearing of this tragedy, the Michigan Department of Human Services immediately began looking into what — if any — role our Children’s Protective Services may have had in events leading up to this situation.”

While she couldn’t comment on specific cases, she said, “I can say that I’m very concerned by any reports that Children’s Protective Services is not following laws or policies. Protecting vulnerable children has been my top priority since I became DHS director.

“The DHS Office of Family Advocate investigates child welfare cases if there are allegations the cases were not handled properly under the law and our policies. Our department takes these concerns very seriously, and any findings that CPS has not followed laws or policies will result in measures to prevent this from happening again. This can include policy and practice changes, enhanced training and disciplinary action for employees who don’t follow laws or policy. We must protect the safety of Michigan’s children.”

CPS appears to have violated state law in 2013 when it didn’t take steps to remove Jamarion from his mom’s Kentwood home after substantiating abuse by his mom and stepdad.

His mom Anita Lawhorn had voluntarily given up two kids in New York in 1999 after a 1-year-old daughter suffered four unexplained broken bones and a 3-year-old daughter had what appeared to be cigarette burns.

Anita Lawhorn at her son Jamarion's arraignment on Aug. 5, 2014.
(Anita Lawhorn at her son Jamarion’s arraignment on Aug. 5, 2014.)

The former acting director of the Michigan Office of Children’s Ombudsman told Target 8 that it was not unusual for CPS workers to ignore the Child Protection Law that requires them to file petitions for parental termination.

The Office of Children’s Ombudsman, an outside agency that reviews alleged CPS mistakes, has opened an investigation. Additionally, state Sen. Judy Emmons (R-Sheridan) has called for a joint Senate/House committee hearing on the case.

Jamarion Lawhorn, 12, is facing a murder charge as an adult in juvenile court for the Aug. 4 stabbing of 9-year-old Connor Verkerke on the Kentwood playground.

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